The Prophetic Scriptures
Prophecy can be found in the Bible from the beginning to the end. From Genesis to the last book -Revelation. The Bible devotes a large portion of its pages to the future, it is literally filled with prophecy. The book of Revelation is written by John as a prophet, the last book closes the Bibles history of prophecy. This is why we are told not to add to the words of this book as if there is more Scripture.
From the book of Genesis God revealed portions of the future to his servants and those who followed him. When God confirmed the covenant with Abraham in Gen 15:12-16 “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. “And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. “Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
A major portion of both the Old and New Testament is devoted to prophecy- nearly one third of the Scripture. Only four of the 66 books of the Bible are without prophecy-Ruth, the Song of Solomon, Philemon, and 3 John. Even the shortest book of the Bible mentions prophecy (Jude 14, 17-18, which refers to Enoch and the second coming of the Lord). Out of the Old Testament's 23,210 verses, 6,641 contain predictive material, over twenty eight percent. Out of the New Testament's 7,914 verses, 1,711 contain predictive material, over 21 percent. The apostle Peter, after testifying that he had seen Jesus Christ in all His glory, said, “And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). Peter here is appealing to fulfilled prophecy as a witness to the truth of the Scriptures. Proverbs 22:19-22: “So that your trust may be in the LORD; I have instructed you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, that you may answer words of truth to those who send to you?”
The word translated “prophet” occurs over three hundred times in the Old Testament and over one hundred times in the New Testament. It is made of two Greek words—pro meaning “before,” or “in place of” and fayme meaning “to speak.” A prophet, is someone who speaks for someone else, the other being God. A prophet speaks to man for or from God. Prophecy is not only a forth-telling of the future – but contains promises of the future to both Israel and the nations of the world. Prophecy covers the full panorama of history of mankind. God gave promises to His prophets on Israel, the church, the consummation of the ages with Christ ruling, to the new heavens and earth. God chose to reveal His words to primarily one group of people - the Jews, whom He made from Abraham.
The prophets spoke in three time frames. There own time, the near future and the far future, which would include the 1st coming and the 2nd coming of Christ. The test of a prophet was his near prophesies which would be fulfilled in his own lifetime. Prophecy was very specific in detail in both the Old and the New Testament.
The Lord asks- Isa 44:7-8: “And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.'“
Prophecy teaches us God exists, and is in control of history. God tells us the purpose of prophecy given to us in Scripture. “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; “I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass” (Isaiah 46:9,10). He is the God of prophecy.
That is why false prophets were not put up with because they misrepresented a perfect God who does everything right. The Biblical test for a true prophet is that the person must be 100% right 100% of the time. A prophet of God could not even make one mistake when they prophesied or they were considered a false prophet. Why? Because it is something that was to be directly from God to the one He chose and entrusted His message. So if someone was wrong then it was obvious that the God who knows all things has not spoken, they spoke on their own initiative or were prompted by another spirit (1 Jn.4:1-3).
The Old Testament prophets taught the basic truths and principles of God for Israel to live by that would promote man's relationship with Him. They condemned sin, they brought and conviction to those who sinned and comfort to the remnant.
There are different kinds of prophecy in Scripture.
1. Predictive - foretelling the future 2. Didactic - dealing with moral, ethical or theological truths.
Some guidelines for dealing with predictive prophecy. We are to take the passage in its most simple direct and ordinary meaning unless you see a reason to do otherwise. We should always begin by looking at the simple, straightforward literal meaning first, comparing it to other similar scriptures. Some use symbolic illustrations but they will also have a literal fulfillment. We also need to understand that there are certain prophetic patterns, passages that are in repetitive patterns, events are repeated in part until we arrive to the ultimate (completed) fulfillment.
Some language is obviously figurative and would be absurd to interpret it literally at face value. Ex: Joel 2:31 the moon turns to blood; Isaiah 11:1, a branch growing out becoming a human being; Zechariah 4:7, a mountain being removed; A beast having ten heads. These would be symbols, illustrations (in visions or dreams) or metaphors of real literal events. All symbols represent literal events. They are like shadows of the substance that is to come.
Peter writes, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
We need to identify figurative passages by following the ordinary rules of language and basic principles of Scripture so we can make a distinction between literal and non-literal events. All symbolism is pointing to a literal meaning.
A literal event in prophecy would be the virgin birth Isa.7:14. One of the major themes of the Old Testament is that God would send a Deliverer or Messiah (the Christ) to come into the world through the Hebrew people. Old Testament passage which states that the Messiah would come from the city of Bethlehem Micah 5:2 He would eventually rule as king over Israel as well as rule over all the nations of the earth (Isa.9:6-7). The New Testament spoke of the coming of Jesus Christ, “Which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures” (Romans 1:1-4). How would the people know the identity of this promised Messiah when He arrived? Isaiah told us who he is (9:6). Micah told us where he would be born specifically (5:2) and Daniel told us he would come before the temple was destroyed (Dan.9). We are also told of the family lineage he would come from (From Shem to David.) There are 330 or more prophecies of Jesus the messiahs 1st coming which are all fulfilled, 30 prophecies were completed in one day, at his death. There are twice as many for his second coming.
Matt 2:15 they were “there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Fulfilling the prophet Hosea statement” When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son” (Hosea 11:1). Here we have a typology of the literal son of God and Israel the national son of God. Just as Israel was called out from Egypt into the Promised land so would the Son of God be. For 400 years prior to the birth of Christ there was no prophecy, God was silent after the last prophet Malachi. Israel was in Egypt in bondage for 400 years. There is no shortage of parallels with prophetic examples like these.
Jesus predicted Jerusalem would fall For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground (Luke 19:43,44) He also predicted the complete destruction of the temple of God, (Matthew 24:1,2). But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near (Luke 21:20). This happened in 70 Ad when Titus conquered it, 40 years after Christ spoke it. 100,000 people believed what He said and fled to safety in Pela, while over a million people who stayed and fought Titus either died or went into captivity. Those who heeded the words of Christ- lived. The same offer is for us today. Noah warned of the flood, he spoke of this while he built the ark for 120 years but they mocked him because they had never seen rain. But God spoke and the flood came just like God said. God says there is a tribulation coming unlike anything we have seen in history. We have it written for us today, but now we have people say there wasn’t even a flood despite the scientific evidence of a cataclysm and fish remains on the top of many of the high mountain peaks. God judged the earth once and He says he will do it again. They don’t believe it.
Why write prophecy down? So there would not be any question on it and it can be tested for generation after generation. It would not be reinterpreted as passed on stories like traditions but would have the consistency to be the same. There are still twice as many prophecies to be fulfilled of His second coming than the first. The writers were told to write down what they heard from God but they may not have understood it all as it was in the future. All Scripture originates With God and comes by the men he has chosen to reveal it to.
The prophets to whom God spoke also recorded their revelation (Joshua 24:26).
We are told that Samuel wrote down the regulations, put them on a scroll, and kept it for safekeeping (1 Samuel 10:25).
Isaiah the prophet also was told to write on a scroll (Isaiah 8:1). Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz--The spoil speeds the prey hastens- it is a sentence of the coming destruction of Israel by the Assyrians. (We also find the prophet Ezekiel told to write future things down (Ezekiel 43:11).
Nehemiah 9:38: “And because of all this, we make a sure covenant, and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”
“Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?” And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:8,9). Many of the prophets who predicted things far in the future did not understand what they were writing. Daniel says those who live in the time of the end will have understanding of these things. In the book of Revelation – the Unveiling of Jesus Christ it is revealed.
The Bible makes it clear that no prophecy in Scripture came about by the prophet’s own will, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). We are told this is the spirit of Christ- revealing the future - it is focused on Christ.
1 Pet 1:10-11 “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” Rev 19:10 “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
For example many of the prophecies in the book of Revelation are found and expanded or applied from the Old Testament i.e. The book of Daniel, Ezekiel and even Isaiah- Rev.6:13-14: “And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.” Finds its root in Isa. 34:4: “All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree.”
The LORD said to Moses: Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel (Exodus 34:27). Just as the scribes were accurate in their recording the law so were those who wrote the prophecies.
Jesus made it clear that the Old Testament writings could not have been altered, even slightly as He used it to verify whom He was.
He told his disciples “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified (Matthew 26:2).
He also predicted that He would be betrayed by one of His own “and as they were eating, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began to say unto him every one, Is it I, Lord? (Matthew 26:21- 22).
That in Israel’s future “And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24).
Jesus confirmed the Old Testament passages that unbelievers and critics reject, the creation account (Luke 11:51; Mt. 19:4,5), Noah and the flood ( Mt. 34:37-39), Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 10:12), Jonah and the great fish (Mt. 12:39-41) are all endorsed by Jesus. The Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). Every word will come to pass. “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).. He predicted that His words would last throughout eternity, which includes all that will take place
And the same Scripture He used to verify who He was to Israel is what we have today. The prophetic Scripture affects us in various ways today. For example, the apostle Paul wrote almost 2,000 years ago, in 2 Timothy 3, of the exact times we now live in today. He described them as perilous, giving specific details that read like our everyday news. This prediction we see fulfilled and cannot be explained away as coincidence or chance in light of the consistent evidence. God has given sufficient evidence of His existence and of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures throughout its history by means of fulfilled prophecy. There is no other book that contains this kind of accurate information written of the future from a culture in the ancient past that would have absolutely no idea about these things.
The prophecies fulfilled in the life of Jesus give further evidence that the Bible is unlike any other book. There were Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Himself when He came to earth. There were prophecies He gave in his lifetime, that have been fulfilled; and prophecies of the future. Some have been fulfilled others are still waiting. These prophecies explain that there is an all-knowing God (who is called the beginning and the end) who has told us what will happen in the future.
Matt 16:21 “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Mark 10:34 “and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
Jesus Christ accepted the whole Old Testament and made many references from the its three fold division: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. On the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples he told them of the Old Testament (Luke 24:45-47) “And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day. “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Acts 2:30-32 “Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, “he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”
Jesus in his life fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, over 30 of them on the day He died. Some prophecies were fulfilled thousands of years ago, many others have been fulfilled and continue to be fulfilled in our day. Hundreds have yet to be fulfilled.
Today it’s unfortunate that studying Bible prophecy is so diminished and there is more interest in personal prophecies from false prophets. We should be studying THE Book to have God gives us the revelation He wants us to know, live and speak in these last days.
Jesus who died for our sins, has resurrected, sat down at the right hand of God and is getting ready to come again. The signs from the nations mentioned in Scripture are quickly falling into place. Yet prophecy is neglected by most Christian preachers and writers. Christian publishing companies rarely consider printing materials on it because they believe it is no longer relevant. But nothing could be more relevant in the times we live in. In the very day Jesus said to pay attention to all the signs, the church has neglected this important facet of Bible study and has fallen asleep (prophecy is even in the parables -10 virgins). Its time we understand what is taking place and awake to be filled with His will and Spirit to do the work we are called to do, we may not get another chance.